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Energy Secretary Announces $13 Million to Expand Solar Energy Technologies

10/12/2006

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced more than $13 million to fund new research in solar technologies. This funding, part of President Bush's $148 million Solar America Initiative, will support the development of more efficient solar panels, known as photovoltaic devices. "This investment is a major step in our mission to bring clean, renewable solar power to the nation," Secretary Bodman said. "If we are able to harness more of the sun's power and use it to provide energy to homes and businesses, we can increase our energy diversity and strengthen our nation's energy security." A pillar of President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, the Solar America Initiative aims to make solar power cost competitive with conventional electricity sources by 2015, by developing materials that convert sunlight directly to electricity.

In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush announced the Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI), which seeks to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. To achieve this objective, the AEI includes a 22% increase in funding for clean energy technology research at DOE. The President's FY 2007 $148 million request for the Solar America Initiative is a $65 million (78%) increase over the current appropriation, to accelerate the development of semiconductor materials that convert sunlight directly to electricity.

The $13 million in funding, including about $4.5 million to be awarded for Fiscal Year 2007, will support a number of projects, including:

Solar Codes and Standards Working Group Leadership: This project will create and operate a national working group to manage solar codes and standards. Sample work includes recommendation or development of model codes and standards and assistance in their implementation, development of codes and standards studies, and the monitoring of emerging codes and standards issues. The project is to last five years, with $1.2 million in FY 2007 funding and $750,000 in future years, for a total project value of $4.2 million. One or two selections are expected.

National Voluntary Photovoltaic (PV) Module Performance Rating System: This project focuses on the creation of a national voluntary PV (photovoltaic) module rating standard, including performance, reliability, safety, anticipated degradations and operational limits, as well as the establishment of testing procedures and protocols for the standard's use. The project is planned to last three years, at $1 million per year, for a total project value of $3 million. One or two selections are expected.

City Strategic Partnerships: Through City Strategic Partnerships, DOE will work to accelerate the adoption of solar technology at the local level by engaging city governments and users of electricity. The cost-shared project is two years in duration and has a total project value of $3.2 million. In addition to financial assistance, DOE will also offer technical assistance to partner cities. Six to ten selections are expected.

State Strategic Partnerships: Under this project, the Department will enlist the assistance of select state membership organizations as strategic partners on solar issues. Recipients will foster strong relationships with targeted state partners to promote solar energy technology adoption. The cost-shared project is three years in duration, at $450,000 per year, for a total project value of $1.35 million. Three to six selections are expected.

Utility Strategic Partnerships: Under the Utility Strategic Partnerships DOE will enlist the assistance of select utility membership organizations as strategic partners to deliver key assistance to utilities to enable the success of the SAI. Sample recipient work includes providing utilities with current models for incorporating solar technologies into business plans and responding to utility inquiries as to the technical characteristics and capabilities of solar technologies. The cost-shared project is three years in duration, at $450,000 per year, for a total project value of $1.35 million. One or two selections are expected.

For more information on the solicitation visit the Solar America Initiative Web site.

In addition to the President's goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil through AEI, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), signed by the President nearly a year ago, provides incentives for purchasing and using solar equipment equal to 30 percent of qualifying expenditures for purchase of commercial solar installations, with no cap on the total credit allowed. EPAct also provides a 30 percent tax credit for qualified PV property and solar water heating property used exclusively for purposes other than heating swimming pools and hot tubs. Private property owners are allowed a credit up to $2,000 for either property, with a maximum of $4,000 allowed, if both photovoltaic and solar hot water properties are installed.